An ugly start and an uglier finish for the Raiders’ special teams helped the Cardinals get their second win of the season.
Mixed in between Larod Stephens-Howling’s game-opening kickoff return TD and Sebastian Janikowski’s misdirected game-ending field goal attempt were special teams gaffes for Arizona, red-zone ineffectiveness for Oakland, a pile of penalties for each, and a fascinating “Scrabble v. Fitz” game-within-the-game.
Raiders: Three performances of note
Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (+1.7) posted his third consecutive positive game and currently fits in among the top five 4-3 outside linebackers in the league (+5.4 overall.) Wimbley hasn’t been dominant in any one game, but he’s been consistently good and particularly so when rushing the passer. He hasn’t missed a defensive snap yet as he shifts to defensive end on third downs and in nickel situations.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski (-1.9) had an exhausting afternoon in the desert. His opening kickoff was returned 102 yards for a touchdown (he didn’t come close to making the tackle), he converted on a pair of extra points and three field goals (including a 54-yarder), but he missed three second-half field goal attempts … most notably the potential game-winner with four seconds remaining. After avoiding a negative game grade for 18 straight games, Janikowski has now collected a pair of them three games into 2010.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (-0.1) broke from his usual assignment of sticking to just the right side of the field and instead, shadowed WR Larry Fitzgerald (-0.5) all day. It was an entertaining matchup to watch and though he did effectively remove Fitz from Arizona’s attack, Nnamdi’s run-defense grade (-0.8) and a pass interference penalty washed out his +1.5 in coverage.
Cardinals: Three performances of note
Right tackle Brandon Keith (+3.2) wasn’t trending toward a good game this week. He came in with back-to-back sub-par performances and was due to face rookie DE Lamarr Houston (-2.7), who was off to a fast start. Keith not only held Houston in check, but put together one of Week 3’s best games by an offensive tackle, faring especially well in pass protection (+1.9).
Free safety Kerry Rhodes (+3.9) was the top dog for Arizona’s defense against Oakland. Rhodes spent the majority of his day deep in the defensive backfield, but stepped up frequently to play closer to the line, blitz, or to slide out and cover a receiver. His +3.4 coverage grade in this game is the best he has on record with PFF.
Running back Beanie Wells (-0.3) showed some burst in his return to the field, but his contribution to the penalty-fest (a 15-yard stiff-arm facemask call) held down his overall grade. Wells saw half as many snaps as fellow halfback Tim Hightower (-2.6) but received more carries and did nearly twice as much damage while running the ball.
Middle linebacker Rolando McClain (+3.2) continued on his way toward finding a comfort level on the NFL field. He once again graded out well against the run and had some instinctual moments that were missing prior to this game. CBs Jeremy Ware and Walter McFadden saw action as slot corners. Safety Stevie Brown was once again active on gameday after clearing waivers earlier in the week. Left tackle Jared Veldheer played 23 snaps as part of the Raiders’ rotation at left tackle. Like last week, WR Jacoby Ford returned kickoffs and filled in at WR occasionally.
For Arizona, WRs Stephen Williams and Max Komar served as the No. 3 and No. 4 receivers, respectively. Komar made the only remarkable impact of the two with a block (on Raiders rookie McFadden) at the goal line that freed WR Steve Breaston for an easy TD catch. Nose tackle Dan Williams (+2.2) played well against the run in limited snaps and LILB Daryl Washington (+1.2) looked good while playing on early downs.
While Arizona’s entire offensive line has played every down so far this season, RG Cooper Carlisle is the only Raider lineman to do so. … WR Louis Murphy caught passes against nine different defenders in the last two weeks.